Thursday, April 30, 2015

Neal Shusterman's Unwind Dystology

I wrote about the first book in the Unwind Dystology, Unwind, nearly three years ago. 

The Unwind Dystology consists of four books and one short story.

1.  Unwind, 2007
2.  UnWholly, 2012
3.  UnSouled, 2013
4.  UnDivided, 2014

UnStrung is a short story published in 2012.  It is meant to be read between volumes 1 and 2.  UnStrung contains events that are important to understanding parts of the later books.  Novellas typically can be skipped and are not necessary to understanding the main books in a series, but UnStrung is very important to this series.

Like with most dystopian series, I cannot give much information beyond what happens in the first book.  Most additional information would spoil too much.

The Unwind Dystology is set in the future United States.  Abortion has been declared illegal, and in exchange, parents can have their children unwound between the ages of 13 and 17.  The teenagers who are unwound are no longer wanted by their parents.  Many parents sign away teenagers that get into trouble or don't make good enough of grades.

Teenagers who are unwound basically become unwilling organ donors.  Their bodies are separated, and 100% of their parts are given to others.  People believe that being unwound does not kill the person, that the person will live on in a divided state.

Some families choose to tithe their children.  Children who are tithes know from birth that they will be unwound at the age of 13.  Tithes and their families see this as a deeply religious experience and are content knowing that the unwound teenager will help others live a better life.

Cults form around the recipients of certain unwound teenagers.  For instance, all of the people who received unwound parts from a boy named Tyler create a cult and live together.  They believe that Tyler is with them in spirit.

This is all very twisted, but it gets worse.  Proactive Citizenry has created a young man, Cam, who was created from 100 unwinds.  Cam has the flesh of all races, stitched together across his body.  His hair is a rainbow of colors and textures, also representing all races.  Many people are disgusted by Cam's existence.  Cam is depicted on the cover of the second book, UnWholly.

Some unwinds go AWOL before they are unwound.  Some of them are the protagonists, Conner, Lev, and Risa.  They fight to stay alive as they search for a way to convince society that unwinding is wrong.

These books are dystopian horror novels.  They are darkly disturbing.  They also get the reader to think.  In fact, these books are so deeply thought-provoking, they may very well be considered great literature years from now.  As we know, great literature is often controversial, and these books are no less than that. 

Shusterman has interspersed real articles from the internet through his books.  The reader gets to read about events that have actually happened that could be precursors to the events of these books. 

These books aren't for everyone.  Some readers may find the content to be too disturbing.  Furthermore, people who are strong pro-life or strong pro-choice likely will not be able to enjoy these books.  The author purposefully uses verbiage from both sides of the issue, and language from both sides is used to support both sides of the unwind issue.  It's quite clever.

I found the first book to be quite unsettling, but at the same time, I found the story to be intensely compelling.  I wanted to see what would happen to the protagonists, despite my horror about the premise.  As I continued reading the books, I became somewhat desensitized and accepted the bizarre premise of this dystopian universe.

If you like young adult dystopian fiction, consider giving these books a try.  Unlike some other authors, Shusterman ends this series strongly.  The last book, UnDivided, may in fact be the best book.  I have read a number of dystopian series, and the authors tend to get lazy towards the end or can't figure out how to end their series, resulting in abysmal final books.  Shusterman knows how to do it right.

The message in these books is powerful.  I couldn't stop thinking about the books after I finished the last one.  The story is haunting and stays with the reader long after the last page is turned.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Cherry Ames Veterans' Nurse and Private Duty Nurse

In Cherry Ames #6, Cherry Ames, Veterans' Nurse, Cherry has come home from the war, which is now over.  She will now work in a military hospital to help rehabilitate men who were injured in the war.  The men have missing limbs, broken backs, or other assorted severe injuries.  Cherry also becomes acquainted with a young couple who have a son whose body will not absorb nutrients from food.  The boy is slowly wasting away.

Finally!  Cherry's war experience is over.  Apparently, many people love the three books set during World War II, but I could barely stand them.  Now, perhaps, I can resume enjoying the books.

In one scene, the people from town stare at one man who is missing a limb.  Their behavior is rude, and that struck a chord with me.  That scene is realistic, because many people do behave in that fashion.  People stare at anyone who is different without consideration for that person's feelings.

This book is much more to my liking.  While I wasn't particularly interested in many of the details about nursing, I did end up liking the men for whom Cherry nurses.  I also cared about the boy who was dying from lack of nutrition.  I was bored at moments and skimmed over some of the details about nursing, but I overall enjoyed this book.

In Cherry Ames #7, Cherry Ames, Private Duty Nurse, Cherry is hired as a personal nurse to a gifted musician.  Scott Owens has a heart condition, and the eccentric musician is easily excited.  His sister, Miss Kitty, is obsessed with psychics, and Scott feels that he must attend the seances with his sister in order to protect her from being swindled.  Invariably, the seances upset Scott, putting his health in danger.

This book is much more about mystery than nursing.  Since I'm not interested in nursing, this was a welcome change for me.  In fact, Cherry Ames spends a large portion of the book sleuthing.

I enjoyed both of these books.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Hidden Ruin and Search in the Desert by Franklin Folsom

In The Hidden Ruin, Al Buckles and his friend, Jerry, are treated to a meal at an expensive restaurant by Al's Uncle Mac.  The Hidden Ruin Restaurant boasts that it has valuable Indian artifacts for sale that came from a secret dig.  Uncle Mac is enraged that amateurs have pillaged an ancient site.  Al and Jerry leave on a camping trip, and the boys decide to try to locate the hidden ruin, so that they can report its location.

This book also centers around Al's dispute with his father.  Al's father insists that Al play football, even though Al does not enjoy football.  Al has to find his own way, and by the end of the story, Al has figured out what he wants.  This book is similar to a coming-of-age story.

The action moves slowly in this book, although most all of the text is very interesting.  A few descriptions are way too lengthy for my taste, especially the scene in which Al struggles to climb up a steep cliff.

This book is very good.

In Search in the Desert, Joe hasn't seen his best friend from high school, Perry, in years.  Joe is shocked when Perry and his father ask him to pilot their helicopter while Perry looks for uranium on the Navaho reservation.  Joe is excited to spend time with Perry, but he soon discovers that his old friend has changed greatly.  Meanwhile, Joe becomes friends with a Navaho, Manny, who has a uranium claim on the Indian reservation. 

The reader knows from near the beginning of the story that Joe and Perry have grown apart and aren't friends any longer, although Joe hasn't figured this out yet.

This book gives insight into what the Indians were going through during the 1950s.  On page 54, a couple of men discuss how they they want to "free the Indians."  The expression, taken at face value, sounds innocuous.  One man explains the idea as follows.
"I mean we have to give them the right to sell their land if they want to.  That means getting rid of the reservations and tribal councils and the Indian Service, too.  We've made some progress.  We've already got special protection removed from several tribes.  It's only a question of time before we'll free the Navahos, too." 
Goodness.  "Freeing the Indians" meant freeing them from their reservations, and therefore, "freeing" them from their own land.

Beth refuses to be coddled by Joe.  He tries to follow her home in his vehicle, but she pulls of the road, refusing to drive further until he leaves.  This book is a boys' book written by a male author in 1955.  The content is amazing for the time.

This book is outstanding.  Much of the book deals with Joe searching for Manny, and the events flow well from one to the next.  The tension builds as Joe makes several mistakes that cause him problems with the Navaho.

It is unfortunate that neither of these books has been reprinted.  Both books are difficult to find, especially Search in the Desert.  I was only able to acquire both books easily because I decided on a whim to purchase them while nobody else was thinking about purchasing them.  This meant that the copies available online had probably been available for a long time with no one interested.  I am glad that I was able to purchase them.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Cherry Ames Army Nurse, Chief Nurse, and Flight Nurse

In Cherry Ames #3, Cherry Ames, Army Nurse, Cherry trains to work as a nurse in the army.  This book annoyed me so much that I refuse to write a decent summary.

On page 36, Lex is upset because Cherry was friendly to another man.  This is just like an abuser.  I still don't like Lex and don't know why Cherry likes him.

I find the relationships between Cherry and her commanding officers quite hard to believe.  There are passages in which I feel like the military is depicted as playtime. The girls call their instructor "Lovey."  Really?  This took away greatly from my enjoyment of this book.  I felt that the girls were too flippant and that their interaction with the officers was not portrayed accurately.  Since the girls' interaction with the officers was not accurate, I was suspicious about whether any of the content of the book was accurate to the time.  That caused me to be uninterested in everything.  I ended up skimming a lot of the book.

I found much of this book to be tedious and boring.  As I read this book, I experienced exactly what I always expected the Cherry Ames series to be, which is why I haven't read them until now.

I dreaded the next two books, also set during the war, and was quite honestly tempted to skip to a post-war book.  I decided to read the next two books with the goal of reading them as fast as possible.  Meanwhile, the idea of reading Biff Brewster, another series with which I struggle, was sounding better all the while.

In Cherry Ames #4, Cherry Ames, Chief Nurse, Cherry and all of her friends from nursing school are sent to an island in the Pacific where they care for injured soldiers.  My, how convenient that everyone from Spencer joins Cherry on the island.

On page 7, Cherry hopes that her commanding officer will say something "comforting and reassuring" to her.  Oh, please.  Cherry wants a military officer to be nurturing?  Ugh.  This isn't going well.  I already knew at this point that I would have as much trouble with this book as the previous one.

Cherry promises the soldiers an ice cream party.  Yes indeed, Cherry promises the soldiers ice cream on an isolated island in the Pacific in the middle of World War II with Japanese fighter planes bombing away in the surrounding area.  Not only that, but her commanding officer decides that the soldiers can't be disappointed.  He gets 400 quarts of ice cream delivered to the island.  Good grief.

Cherry asks the colonel for exceptions and favors and thinks he's mean when he refuses.  #$*&%!!!  It's the army!

I did not like most of this book.  I did like the last part of the book better once Cherry quits getting annoyed with the colonel for being such a meanie.  How dare he!

In Cherry Ames #5, Cherry Ames, Flight Nurse, Cherry and all of her friends are sent to England by the army.  Each nurse is assigned to a plane.  Each plane will fly out into the combat zone to pick up wounded soldiers to bring back for hospitalization.

On page 140, we learn that Cherry "had never found Lex much fun."  I'm just glad to be rid of the freak.

Once again, Cherry tells someone who is severely wounded that the doctors will make him what he once was.  On page 169, Cherry tells a soldier who has a "burned, torn face" that he will be restored.  Cherry says, "Plastic surgeons are going to restore your face.  They will work from pre-war photographs of you.  They'll turn you out as good as ever."  And, undoubtedly, the soldier will have no scarring.

I was set against enjoying this book due to my experience with the previous two books.  I wanted Cherry's military experiences to be over quickly.  I did not enjoy the first part of the book at all.  I did enjoy the book somewhat once I reached the later part of the story, but even then, much of the story was not interesting to me.

These wartime books have way too much information about nursing technique for my taste.  Apparently, most readers of Cherry Ames love the information in these books and particularly enjoy the books set during World War II.  I am uninterested in nursing, so all of the information about nursing is boring to me.  The part about World War II should have been interesting to me, but I couldn't get past Cherry's unreal expectations of the military officers.  I greatly dislike these three books and doubt I will ever read them again.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Troy Nesbit Rustlers' Fort, Diamond Cave, and Forest Fire

In The Mystery at Rustlers' Fort, Phil vacations with his cousin, Buzz, and Buzz's family near the Grand Canyon.  The boys notice a man who appears to be watching their camp.  The boys are certain that the man is up to mischief.  A nearby jewelry store is robbed, and the boys believe that the strange man is responsible.  Meanwhile, the boys purchase a Geiger counter so that they can hunt for uranium.  The Geiger counter plays an unexpected role in helping the boys solve the mystery.

The plot has many unexpected twists and turns, and the reader never knows exactly what will happen next.  The journey is fun from start to finish.

This book is outstanding.

In The Diamond Cave Mystery, Chuck and Hal learn about an old bible and coin that hold a series of clues to a hidden stash of diamonds.  The boys eagerly begin a search.  Chuck and Hal let their reporter friend publish the clues in the newspaper, which sets the entire county on a search for the diamonds.  Chuck and Hal must work fast to find the diamonds before someone else does.

Hal's little brother, Sammy, is like a clone of Bobby Belden from the Trixie Belden series.  The kid is a brat who throws tantrums.  He even threatens the older boys and then carries out his threats.  All of the adults excuse Sammy's behavior and seem not to understand why the boys consider it a nuisance to babysit him. One adult says that the boys would "be the same way Sammy is if you didn't have any kids around your own age to play with."  Oh, is that it?

I was skeptical about The Diamond Cave Mystery at first.  I knew that the Power Boys book, The Mystery of the Million-Dollar Penny, borrowed plot content from this book.  I did not enjoy the Power Boys book at all, so I had a negative feeling towards this book.  Fortunately, the Power Boys book is a very poor imitation of this book.   The Diamond Cave Mystery is outstanding.

In The Forest Fire Mystery, Art has recently moved from Denver to the mountains.  He becomes friends with Joe, and the two boys spend their time searching for the person responsible for starting a string of fires in the mountains.  Their two suspects, Mr. Horner and Mr. Maynard, are both behaving suspiciously, but both men seem to have airtight alibis.

Art and his younger sister, Liz, make a great team.  Page 76 of the Harvey House edition has a great example of their teamwork.
"See!" he exclaimed, pointing triumphantly at the ground.

"Yes, look!" Liz cried excitedly—but she pointed at something different.

"The truck went this way," Art said.  "You can tell by those tire treads I showed you a while ago."

"Who cares about tires?  The important thing is that the burros went the same way.  You can see their hoofprints," Liz answered.

Art grinned at the fact that he and his sister specialized in different kinds of evidence.  But right now all the evidence pointed in one direction.
This book has a really great mystery, and the reader is kept guessing as to how it will work out.  This book is outstanding.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Cherry Ames Student Nurse and Senior Nurse

Cherry Ames is another series that I have ignored for many years.  The books have never appealed to me, because I have not the slightest interest in nursing.  Furthermore, I have had an aversion to the idea of reading books set in the hospital setting.  After a second failed attempt in reading Biff Brewster, I decided to read the Cherry Ames series.

In Cherry Ames #1, Cherry Ames, Student Nurse, Cherry begins her probationary year of nursing school.  Cherry makes a few mistakes along the way and worries that she won't measure up.  She becomes good friends with several other nursing students.  Soon, Cherry becomes aware of a secret patient and is faced with a dilemma when the patient faces an emergency.

I noticed how Wells uses ethnicity to point out the differences between people.  On pages 60 and 61, "Cherry looked down into the contrasting faces:  a plump Jewish grandmother, an Italian woman with a smile like a sunburst, a tiny little Irish girl not much older than herself, a Slavic woman who spoke no English.  What an assorted lot they were!"

On page 132, Cherry thinks of how two nurses are friends.  She thinks about how they are very different on the surface including of different nationalities but that they have similar personalities.  There again, Wells uses ethnicity to point out differences.

A hot water boiler explodes in a young boy's face, and he is badly burned.  On page 137, Cherry assures him that he "won't look a bit different."  The child needed to be reassured, but I didn't like Cherry assuring him that he wouldn't look different at all.  That bothered me.  

These books have lots of sentimentality in them.  Cherry feels homesick.  She worries about the future.  She worries about her patients.  I especially notice it because I have been reading boys' series books, which don't have the excessive amount of reflection in them.  I find the sentimentality to be excessive even for girls' books, and it is too much for me.  I skimmed some of it.

In Cherry Ames #2, Cherry Ames, Senior Nurse, 20-year-old Cherry Ames begins her senior year of nursing school.  Her first assignment gets off to a shaky start when the maid smuggles a rabbit into the children's ward, and Cherry plays along with the prank.  Later, Lex, a young doctor, pursues Cherry relentlessly, even to the point of becoming Dr. Joe's assistant.

On page 12, Cherry tells a girl, " 'I'll try to have your mother come, Mary Ruth, but I can't promise.' She knew she had to be scrupulously honest with children, to keep their trust."  Oh, really?  When I read this sentence, I thought of the burned boy and how Cherry promised him that he would look the same.

Just after Cherry's thinks about how she has to be honest with children, Cherry tells the girl that a teddy bear spoke to her that morning, wanting a playmate.  The girl tells Cherry that she knows that the teddy bear can't talk.  Ugh.  Cherry says that she needs to be honest, and then she tells an obvious fib in the next breath. 

I do not like Lex.  He reminds me of a stalker who would end up becoming an abusive spouse.  He is obsessed with Cherry and has abusive tendencies.  Helen Wells says it herself.  On page 144, Wells uses the word "violent" to describe Lex's reaction to a few questions. 

It's quite difficult to believe how quickly Cherry wins over Mildred after not getting along with her for months.

I enjoyed both books, although as expected, most of the details regarding nursing were of very little interest to me.  As I already mentioned, the sentimental details were not of great interest.  I also feel no connection to Midge and Dr. Fortune, so I find them uninteresting.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Troy Nesbit Sand Dune Pony, Payrock Canyon, and Indian Mummy

In Sand Dune Pony, Pete spends the summer at Uncle Lem and Aunt Clara's ranch in southern Colorado.  Uncle Lem is short on horses, so Pete has no horse to ride until one gets broken.  When old Hatsy comes along with his wagon, Pete jumps at the chance to spend the summer camping.  Hatsy promises Pete that they will find a pony for him.

On page 86, Hatsy explains how a horse can be used for tracking.  Hatsy and Pete are tracking a man who doesn't know the territory and would surely choose the easiest path.  Hatsy lets his horse choose the path, which ends up being the same path the man took.  

Pete goes skiing on sand dunes.  I had never thought about skiing on sand dunes, so I found this part interesting.

Readers who love horses will love this book.  I found much of it interesting, although the detailed content began to wear on me during the second part of the story.

This book is very good.

In The Jinx of Payrock Canyon, Jay Himrod spends the summer helping his friend, Doc Martin, with his father's cattle.  The boys feel like Payrock Canyon has a jinx on it because of all of the strange events that have occurred.  Beavers have changed their color from black to brown.  The sheep are dying from a disease.  Mr. Martin's cattle are stampeding.  The boys observe a man carrying a box around the countryside.  The boys wonder if the mysterious man is responsible for some of the strange events.

There is too much randomness in this book.  This book began to tire me towards the end, and I became impatient for the book to be over.  The book is good but not as good as Sand Dune Pony.

In The Indian Mummy Mystery, Joe, Denny, and their new friend, Huff, want to locate an old mummy that Joe's grandfather found decades earlier.  The mummy was stolen by outlaws, and the boys believe that the mummy might be located in the ruins of a nearby ghost town.

Denny has an old Confederate half-dollar from 1861.  On page 33, the boys are told that the half-dollar is worthless.  I wasn't fooled for a second.  Common sense told me how rare a Confederate half-dollar would have been even in the 1950s.  Besides, too many series books proclaim that a certain object is worthless when in fact it is valuable.

This book has a number of exciting events.  Joe crawls around by himself in an Indian dwelling on the side of a cliff.  The boys get trapped in a cave during the night, and their search for treasure is fun.   

I like this book the best of the three I have read so far.  It is excellent.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Keeping Your Collection from Getting Out of Hand

A recent article titled "What personal collectors can learn from museums" gives advice to private collectors.  I read the article and realized that I apply most all of the practices to the way I collect books.  Let's look at some of the article's points.

"Have you thought about exactly what kind of thing you’re collecting?.....You may start out with a wide scope and decide to narrow it over time."

I have gradually expanded what I collect over the years, but I have always kept it within certain constraints.  Nancy Drew is the only series for which I have aggressively pursued most all formats and variations, but even with Nancy Drew, I have placed constraints on what I purchase.  I love international editions, but I only purchase them when I like the appearance of the cover.  If I don't like the style of some international sets, I don't purchase them.

I have sold some international editions because they were too large and didn't fit well on the shelf.  I recall a large Swedish Nancy Drew picture cover book that I once had.  I didn't like how it stood a couple of inches taller than the other books, so I sold it.  That might sound strange, but it fits perfectly with the idea of me not keeping books that I don't like as much.  I don't have enough room to purchase or keep books for the sake of having them.

I don't have a set of Nancy Drew flashlight editions.  I once did, but I sold them when I gradually increased my sets of library editions and other variants.  I decided that the books I was buying were more important.  I sold my Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys Super Mysteries, Nancy Drew On Campus, and Nancy Drew Notebooks at around the same time.  I didn't care about them, and I needed the space.

"What are your priorities for adding to your collection? Do you have some holes in your collection that you want to fill? What’s your budget?"

My focus is on what I am currently interested in reading.  I decided in recent months to read the Troy Nesbit, Brains Benton, and Power Boys series.  As a result of that desire, I purchased books in those series.

Early in my collecting, I had to do without many books since I didn't have the funds to purchase everything.  Since I have most books that I want, I am able to afford what I wish to purchase.
"When do items get removed from your collection?.....And if the scope of your collection has changed over the years, you may find items that no longer seem to fit."

I partially addressed this in my first response, but here are a few more points.  I also sell books that I did not particularly enjoy reading or did not enjoy enough to keep.  It's not enough for the book to have a nice dust jacket with lovely vintage art.  I have to have enjoyed reading the book enough to want to keep it.

I have sold some collectible items because I decided that I no longer care.  For instance, I tend not to keep autographed items, since autographs don't mean much to me.

"Museums only display part of their collection at any time, rotating the items on display....Just as a museum would, you will want to consider whether items in your collection need to be kept at any specific range of temperatures and humidity.....You’ll also want to think about how to keep fragile items from being broken when on display and when being stored."

For me, the biggest consideration is my cats.  I have had a few books damaged by cats over the years.  They sometimes knock down books on lower shelves.  One time a cat threw up on a softcover Boxcar Children book that fortunately was nothing special.  That book had to be thrown away since the result was quite gross.  Another time a cat made a long deep scratch in the spine of a book.  Therefore, I keep my most valuable books up high and away from the cats.

I also never store any of my books in the attic, in the garage, or in an outbuilding.  The temperature and humidity are too variable in those locations.

"Would you ever consider loaning out items in your collection?"  

Absolutely not.  I also would never accept a loan from another collector.  I wouldn't feel comfortable having someone else's book in my possession, and I wouldn't be comfortable loaning a book to someone else.

"If you have a large collection, not all on display, having an inventory will help you remember what’s being kept where."

I had a written inventory that I kept up quite well until around 2001, then I went to sticky notes placed inside the books.  That meant that I didn't have a good record.  I took care of that last summer when I put all of my books on LibraryThing.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Roger Baxter #3 The Riddle of the Hidden Pesos

In Roger Baxter #3, The Riddle of the Hidden Pesos, Roger, Bill, and Slim drive into Mexico for a vacation.  Soon after they enter Mexico, the boys discover packages containing counterfeit pesos hidden in the seat cushions of the car.  Unwittingly, Slim and the boys just smuggled counterfeit money into Mexico.  They find themselves in a difficult position, as they learn that one or more parties are tracking their movements.  Slim and the boys attempt to evade the men who are following them as they race towards Mexico City. 

The plot of this book is rather similar to the Ken Holt book, The Mystery of the Green Flame.  The book also reminds me a little bit of another Ken Holt book set in Mexico, The Mystery of the Plumed Serpent.

Bill's experience with hot Mexican food is like Sandy's.  He impulsively eats hot Mexican food and then promptly regrets it.

On page 65, Bill throws a wrapper out of the window of the car.  I hate it when series books have the characters litter.  That's not cool.

This book is very exciting from start to finish.  I greatly enjoyed it.

I ended up liking all three Roger Baxter books better than most all of the Ken Holt books.  That might sound surprising, but consider that to me, Ken Holt is an average series.  My reaction was lukewarm to the first half of the series, so I like most series books more than those.  While I ended up greatly liking the books in the second half of the series, the books were not outstanding in my opinion.  They are to Ken Holt fans, but not to me.

I think I like these books better because the boys are a little younger, and the books don't come across as adult mysteries.  The Ken Holt books are similar to adult mysteries, and that makes a difference.

Stranger at the Inlet is an excellent book.  The Secret of Baldhead Mountain and The Riddle of the Hidden Pesos are outstanding.

The Roger Baxter series is tough to complete.  If you want to build a set of the books, make sure you check everywhere on the internet.  Check Amazon's main site and Amazon's UK site.  Check Alibris and AbeBooks.  Check Bonanza, Etsy, and Google's shopping search.  Also check eBay, but keep in mind that reading copies of obscure books are often easier to find on sites other than eBay, since fewer people check those sites.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Whitman Books Are Worth a Second Look

Many juvenile series collectors are not interested in books published by the Western Publishing Company.  Western's books were primarily issued under the Whitman and Golden Press imprints.  Collectors focus more on books published by Grosset and Dunlap, Cupples and Leon, and other publishers.

Aside from the Trixie Belden series, I typically have always ignored Whitman books and have had very little interest in collecting them.  I have always thought that the books look neat with pretty covers, but for some reason, I have had little interest in purchasing them.

My aversion originally came from the knowledge that the Whitman books were published by the same company that published the Little Golden Books.  The Little Golden Books are for very young children, so I grouped all Whitman books in with them.  Furthermore, the Whitman books for older children and young adults tend to have cover art with characters that look rather young.

The content of the Whitman books does seem to be aimed at slightly younger children than the series by Grosset and Dunlap.  The young people in the Whitman books often still have both parents who put firm constraints on their children.  The protagonists can only sleuth when they can temporarily escape from those constraints.  In contrast, the protagonists in the Grosset and Dunlap books tend to have only one parent or parents that let them do whatever they want.

The often poor condition of the Whitman books has added to my aversion.

The books have not aged well.  They were published with pulp paper that has now deeply yellowed or turned brown.  The cello books from the 1950s almost always have cello that has peeled off or is damaged.  The hardcover books from the 1970s were made with such poor materials that they were already falling apart by the early 1990s.  It's very hard to find nice copies of Whitman books.

Other collectors have mentioned being turned off by the Whitman books when they were children.  All of the Whitman hardcover books were already out of print by the time I was old enough to read, so I don't know how I would have reacted.  My only childhood exposure to the Whitman books was when I checked out the thin hardcover Trixie Belden books from my elementary school library during the 1983-1984 school year.  My elementary school had the complete set of #1-16, and I believe I read all of them that year during 6th grade.  I loved them so much.

So naturally, when I started collecting in 1991, I sought out the Trixie Belden Whitman books as well as the Nancy Drew books.  I did pick up a number of other Whitman books at garage sales during the early 1990s, but I later got rid of them.  I just wasn't interested in any Whitman books outside of Trixie Belden, even though I always thought that the covers were attractive.

In the last year, I have started reading books that I previously ignored.  I never wanted to read either the Three Investigators or Rick Brant series, but I found nearly complete sets of both and tried them out to make certain that I didn't like them.  I was surprised to discover that both series are very much to my liking.  I'm so glad that I gave both of them a chance.

This left me with the nagging feeling that I could be ignoring other wonderful series because of the publisher, such as Whitman, or because of other preconceived ideas.  I have been gathering books in the last year to try just to make certain that I'm not missing out on some wonderful books.  In some cases, I was correct that certain books were not to my liking, while in other cases I found wonderful stories.

For Whitman, I have so far tried Brains Benton, Troy Nesbit, and the Power Boys, with mixed results.  I greatly enjoyed all of the Brains Benton books and the Troy Nesbit books.  The Power Boys are not as good, but they are entertaining mainly because there is so much wrong with them.

I tried some miscellaneous books from other publishers.  I tried two books by John Bellairs, since series book collectors frequently remark about how much they enjoy Bellairs.  I didn't like them that much, so I won't be reading any additional books by Bellairs.

I tried one book by Catherine Woolley, since several collectors love Woolley.  I didn't finish it.  The book reads like the average book I read as a child that is now of no interest to me.

While the Ken Holt series is just an average series to me, I decided to track down and find the Roger Baxter books, which were written by the Ken Holt authors.  I ended up liking Roger Baxter much more than I did the Ken Holt books.

As I find other kinds of books, I will also try some of them.  I don't want to make the mistake of ignoring books that could become favorites.  In particular, I will make sure that I try a few more Whitman books.  I once read a Ginny Gordon book and didn't particularly like it.  I will have to try again sometime soon, just in case my opinion has shifted.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Roger Baxter #2 The Secret of Baldhead Mountain

In The Secret of Baldhead Mountain, Roger and Bill travel to Colorado to join their father as he works on a tunnel-building job.  Some residents of a nearby town are against the present location of the proposed highway tunnel.  When Roger learns that a landslide just occurred at the tunnel's entrance, he becomes convinced that someone is sabotaging the tunnel.

Bill is skeptical of Roger's theory about the sabotage, which is so much like when Sandy questions Ken's theories in the Ken Holt series.

Near the beginning of this book, we learn that the boys helped with the smuggling case last summer.  This means that around one year has passed between the two books.

When I read the Ken Holt books, I noticed that everyone drinks coffee, including Ken and Sandy.  In these books, I notice that all of the men smoke.  Naturally, Roger and Bill don't smoke, but give them a few years, and they, too, will smoke like all of the men.

In Chapter 7, Roger and Bill's new friend, Diego, tells them about how some people in Colorado don't seem to like Diego because he is Mexican.  Roger thinks that Diego's belief is nonsense until he remembers how he at first didn't like a boy at school who friends said didn't belong and wasn't worthy of them.  Roger "had unthinkingly accepted the verdict of a group of older boys who called Mike a 'Hunky' and dismissed him immediately as unworthy of their gang.  People don't like foreigners.  Sure it was crazy.  But he knew it was true, sometimes."

I had never heard the term "Hunky," although I realized it had to be an ethnic or racial slur.  I looked it up and learned that it is a derogatory word for immigrants of Slovakian descent.  I then made the connection between "Hungarian" and "Hunky."  Now I understand.  I learn so much from reading books.

From page 78:
There was an awkwardness between them now, and in a way he wished that Diego hadn't spoken.  In another way he was glad he had.  Because if you didn't know about things like that, how could you do anything about them?
This type of passage is atypical of older series books.  I am impressed, but I am also struck by how little things have changed in the last 69 years.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  Roger and Bill do lots of sleuthing in interesting places, including an old ghost town and an old mine.  Part of the scene in the mine plays out very similar to a scene in the Ken Holt book, The Mystery of Gallows Cliff.